I still don't fully understand why people waste time lying down on the ground performing endless amounts of crunches; straining their neck, lumbar spine arching off the mat; I tend to just look away from the hot mess. In theory, I do somewhat understand why people do this; they don't know otherwise! Well I want to share some of my NEW favorite core exercises and also explain the benefits of movements other than crunches.
Most people say "core" and they are referring to their abdominals, but there is so much more to the core than the sought after 6 pack. Crunches can actually shorten your rectus abdominus muscles (the muscle that creates that '6 pack') When you are crunching and repetitively shortening the muscle, this will contribute to muscular imbalances and posture problems
A big problem I see when anyone performs a 'reverse crunch' is that they experience pain in the low back due to the excess torque on the low back. Another reason there could be pain is due to lack of flexibility in the lower back and hamstrings. As the legs drop lower, the hips will start taking over, thus causes the back to arch. This is not only ineffective but can be potentially dangerous because the motion can cause minor spinal compression when the spine drops.
I love working my core with exercises such as the deadlift, squat, pull up, kettlebell and TRX exercises, however to ensure you are incorporating a balanced core routine, it is important to focus on some accessory work besides these bigs lifts. When I train the core, I really like to focus on anti-extension movements and anti-rotation movements that really fire up everything all at once. These exercises can be a bit tricky to get the hang of, and I would definitely throw them in the advanced category.
I have found some new TRX exercises that I really enjoy that I will first share. As you know, a reason I love the TRX is because it can be varied for any fitness level. It is quite easy to progress and regress. Just step further away from the anchor point to challenge yourself and step closer to the anchor point to start. You can have different foot placements as well (staggered, double leg together, single leg etc)
TRX Body Saw/Pike Combo
The TRX body saw may look easy but it is KILLER. It is a very small movement, moving the body forward and backwards but wow will your core feel this one! It is extremely important to be able to keep your body in proper alignment.
Regress: Take away the 'sawing' component' and just hold the TRX plank
Progress: Make the movement a bit bigger, alternating bringing knees to chest when you 'saw' forward'
TRX Pike Lift
This exercise really challenges the upper body as well as the core
Half Kneeling Cable Chop
This exercise is awesome and really effective if done properly. You want to be sure to not go too far foward or let the shoulders take over the movement instead of the core region. I would start with a light weight in order to get the movement down 100% before loading up.
Standing Cable Rotations
This is an anti-rotational core exercise that I use with many of my clients as well as myself. The hips should remain stable and should not be turning with your whole body. Starting out, it is okay to for them to move a bit because it may take some time to get the movement down to a "T"
TRX Kneeling Rollout
This exercise is similar to the stability ball or ab wheel roll out but totally badass because of the extra stability needed when using the TRX. You want to start close by the anchor point and as you get better with this exercise you can always move further away to increase the extension. You want to be sure to not roll out too far, putting excess strain on the shoulders; and of course you should not be experiencing low back pain.
I also am a HUGE lover of planks...I find that most people are not because well, they are hard! They are hard to perform properly...not letting the hips sink down, keeping the glutes squeezed and evening out weight distribution. The truth is that the plank is one of the BEST exercises for challenging the entire body. I always introduce new clients to the basic elbow plank and side plank. Once I see that my client can properly perform a plank with correct body awareness and positioning; torso aligned, head neutral etc, I share different variations that bring about a whole new challenge!
TRX Suspended Side Plank With a Twist
This is by far one of my new favorites on this list! Holy obliques. This exercise requires a great amount of concentration and balance as well which is why I love it that much more. The very first time I did this, I didn't even add the twist and still felt completely challenged. I would start by setting yourself up and just holding the position without the twist. Aim for
20-30 seconds on each side.
Val Slide Plank Saw
This exercise is similar to the TRX saw in that you are engaging the entire body from head to toe and slowly, with control, 'sawing' back and forth with your body. I like this exercise because it can be done anywhere! Simply subsitute the val slides with towels and you can do it right in your home. Aim for 30 second sets.
Stir The Pot (Stability Ball)
Another one of my favorites here. You can change up the intensity of this exercise by moving slower or in bigger circles. I love stability ball planks and this is just one way to progress. You want to assume a nice sold plank on the elbows. The whole body should be in proper alignment from the neck, through the torso and down to the feet. You want to begin by moving your arms in a circle, keeping the hips stable and toes locked to the ground. To make your base of gravity a bit more stable, feel free to widen the feet. After you have completed 20 seconds one direction, continuing 'stirring the pot' the other direction.
****My suggestion with any plank variation such as this is to be sure you are able to MASTER the base level; the plank before trying any of these variations!
If you are looking for more core information, check out these posts!
I Hope everyone has a great weekend!! I want to wish my mother the happiest Mothers Days! I LOVE YOU MOM!
On that note, some brownie lollipops may or may not be enjoyed tonight...you can take a guess.
(Yes I made them!!)